Introduction: Scrap Timber - Impossible Anti-Gravity, Cantilever Fish Bowl Stand / Planter Stand
Welcome to my first ever Instructable. The idea for this project came after I built an anti-gravity wine bottle holder, and I was inspired to build a large fish tank stand that did the same and seemed to defy gravity.
This project is the small scale prototype for a future larger version which will hold a 4ft fish tank weighing around 340kg (715 pounds). This stand seems to defy gravity and stays stable no matter which way you have it. .It can have the shelf up high or down lower, all depending on what you like best.
I don't have a professional woodworking shop, just some tools in my shed, so it is a project that almost anyone can do. I hope you enjoy building this as much as I did... Post some pictures of your finished product, I would love to see what you made.
Two pieces of timber around 500mm (20 inches) long and of any width (the wider it is the more stable it will be).
I used Spotted gum decking boards that were 132mm (5 1/5" ) x 18mm (3/4") which I had left over from a bed head project I made for my son.
Any piece of lumber would work, as long as one is straight. It does not matter the thickness of the timber, keeping in mind that the thicker your timber is the harder it is to cut, but the more stable it will be.
No Glue or nails are used in this build, only the two pieces of timber are needed.
If you want to dress it at the end of the project, then some furniture oil, bees wax polish, or varnish will do the job.
A notebook and pen is also handy to take note of your measurements.
- Personal Protective Equipment - Gloves, noise cancelling Ear Muffs, Safety Glasses
- Sliding Mitre Saw, or Band Saw with tilting table.
- Pull saw or hacksaw
- Sharp Chisels 19mm (3/4") & 13mm (1/2")
- 90 degree ruler
- Carpenters pencil or marker
- Tape measure
- Sander with 80,120,180,249 grit sand paper ( I used a random orbital sander)
Time for Project
This project took me around 1 hour 30 minutes to complete, only because I was making it up as I went. So allow up to that length of time, less if you are a confident woodworker with a good array of tools.
Most important ingredient is patience and a good attitude.
Step 1: Measuring Your Timber
First step is to know what the measurements are of the timber you are working with. You will need to know the length, width and thickness of the timber you have.
The two pieces that you cut can be of any length, but for this project of a Fish Bowl a length of 500mm (19 1/2") is more than enough.
One piece will need to be longer than than the other by 10% so make sure that you have long enough pieces to work with.
Record the length, width and thickness of the boards for later use.
Step 2: Measuring Cuts
Now that you know the length, width and thickness of your timber, we must mark out the cuts that we will be making, so grab your measuring tape again, your 90 degree ruler and pencil or marker and lets go.
We need to mark out the lines that we will cut at each end of the board to give it the correct angle, and we need to mark out a cut-out section that is the width of the thickness of the board and is half the width of the board long. These cut outs will be used to slide the boards together to make the stand.
Marking out the end cuts
- On the longer board, measure up from the bottom of your timber around 15mm or an inch and using your 90 degree ruler, draw a line across form one side to the other.
- Measure up from that line what ever length you want the long piece to be, then draw a line using your 90 degree across the board form one side to the other.
- Take your second board and do the same, but this time on the second measurement, take 1/10 the length off the length of the longer board. For example if you make the longer board 420mm long like I did mine, then measure 380mm for the shorter one and mark it out. Please note that it is not super critical that it has to be exactly 1/10 less. Make your measurements easy for you, this project is not that fussy.
Marking out the Cut Outs
- Once we have marked these out, we need to take the measurement that we made on the width of the board and divide it in half. That will give us the centre of each board.
- We need to draw a line across the board 3/4 of the way up the board, so divide the length of the longer board by 4, then multiply that number by three and record it. Measure up the board that length and using your 90 degree ruler, mark across the width of the board with your pencil or marker.
- Using the thickness measurement we took earlier, measure half of that thickness and mark that half thickness both underneath, and above the line you just drew 3/4 of the way up the board and mark it so we can draw a line from them both.
- Using your 90 degree ruler, measure out to half the width of the board from the marks you just made and draw a line out to that half way point. It doesn't matter which side of the both you use (left or right)
- Connect those two lines by drawing a line between them... refer photos if not sure.
Marking second board
- Take the board you just marked and lay the second shorter board beside it so that your bottom lines match up.
- Using your 90 degree ruler, extend the lines you just drew which go half way across the longer board down across the width of the shorter board.
- If you marked the cut out of the first board on the left hand side of the centre line, then do the same on the second board. If you did it on the right, do the same on the second one.
In the end you should have two boards that are marked with a line at the top of the board and a line at the bottom, as well as a cut out marked which is the thickness of the boards you are using wide and are half the width of the boards long.
The cut outs should be on the same side of the boards as each other and the same length up the board as each other.
It is also a good idea to mark with a large cross the areas of timber that we are removing. Mark the inside of the cut-outs and the very ends of the boards with a scribble or cross. This gives us a visual of what we need to cut out.
Now it's time to cut it out and make the magic happen.
Step 3: Cutting Your Timber
This is the step that is the most important, and also the most dangerous, so please be very careful when using power tools. If you are not confident using these tools, ask someone who is to either do it for you or coach you through the next steps.
We will break this step into 3 parts to make it easy.
Step 1 - Setting up the saw
- Set your compound mitre saw or band saw table to 35 degrees. If using a hand saw or other form of power saw, mark out 35 degrees using a protractor and mark across the side of the board the lines needed to saw along. The angle at each end should have the same direction to it. The angle of the cuts on the cut-outs need to be the same direction as the angles on both ends.
Step 2- Cut the top and bottom of each board.
- Taking the first board and secure it on your mitre saw or place it ready to cut on your band saw, at the line on the bottom end of the board. Once lined up, make the cut.
- Repeat this at the other end of the board by sliding the board from bottom to top, do not rotate the board as you want the direction of the angle to stay the same on each end.
- Do this for both boards.
Step 3 - Remove the Cut Outs
- Making sure that you keep the direction of the angle the same as the end two cuts, This is the same no matter what type of saw you are using.
- If using a mitre saw, take a scrap piece of timber and secure it against the fence to use as a spacer for making our cut-outs with (as shown in the second photo). Make a cut so that you don't get any surprises while making the next series of cuts.
- Butt the side of the board hard up against the spacer board and align the cut-out line closest to the top of the board with the edge of the spacer board (second photo). What we are going to do is make a series of thin cuts to remove the timber between the two outer lines of the cut-out section. This takes patience and not rushing things.
- Start your saw and drop it into the timber until it is all the way through the thickness of the board. Draw it to the end line (half way across the width of the board at the end of the cut-out section you have marked out). Move the board up slightly to make another cut just the same. Cut all the way through and then slide it up to the line at the half way mark. Continue to do this until you reach the bottom line of the cut-out section. Remove that board and do the same with the other board. If you do this step in thin enough cuts, you can remove the full width of the cut-out without having to get your chisel out yet. (refer 3rd photo)
- Now that you have both boards cut in this manner, you will notice if you are using a mitre saw, that there will still be timber material in the cut out section due to the circular blade. This will not be the case it using hand saws or a band saw.
- To remove the remainder, it takes two steps.
- 1... take the spacer timber that you have secured to the fence on the mitre saw and flip it upside down so that the angle of the cut is still the same, but you now have the back of the board facing up.
- 2...Take your two boards and mark out the back of the boards, the area of the cut-outs. Do this by using your 90 degree ruler and measuring along the cut lines just made with the cuts you just made out to the half way mark across your board. Mark the end line across form both these lines for your cut end reference.
- 3... Butt your board up against the spacer with the back showing and align the cut closest to the bottom of the board with the edge of the spacer board and do the same thing as when cutting the first part of our cut-out section. Make a cut with the saw all the way in, right through the board and then slide it towards the end mark along your line. Make sure you stop on your end line (if you go a little beyond it, don't stress, you won't really see it on the final product.) Move the board down to continue like before and make thin cuts over an dover until you remove all the way to the other edge of the cut-out section. When finished you will have what looks like the 4th photo. Most of the timber will have been removed, and we now must remove the rest by chisel... Repeat with both boards.
- Removing the remainder is relatively easy. We need to take our hacksaw or pull saw and using them at the same angle as the cuts, saw down to the bottom line (the halfway mark of the width of the board) on both of the outer edges of our cut-out section.
- Taking the wider chisel and hammer, make a cut line across the end line of our cut-out which is half way across the width of the board. Do this on both sides of your board, and then once you have made a cut line with your chisel at the end point to where you wish to remove the timber too. If you do not do this, then you will end up "blowing out" the timber with your chiselling.
- Changing to the smaller 13mm chisel, start to remove the remainder of the timber in the cut-out section. If you haven't used a chisel before to remove timber, jump on YouTube and look at how the experts to it. There is lots of how to videos on using chisels on there. Once removed, it should look like the last photo.
Step 4: Checking Cuts
Now that you have made your cut out, we need to make sure that they are the correct width to enable a snug fit for both boards when put together.
Place the cut-outs next to each other and holding the boards at the angle of the cut outs and see if they go into each other at all. If they don't quite fit, then simply widen the cut-out on each board until they fit. This is done by repeating what we just did in the previous step.
Once they are a snug fit, use a scrap piece of timber as a buffer between your board and the hammer, tap them together until they are lined up in place.
Now that you have made your stand, test it out by balancing an item or weight on the stand. (fourth Photo). Simply hold the stand upright and then place you item on it starting close to where the two boards meet, and move it forwards towards the end of the board, checking along the way by releasing the hold of the boards. Once you get the item to the place where it is balanced, you can let go completely of the boards and you can pat yourself on the back, you are almost done.
Once happy with your build, you can if you want dismantle it and by flipping the shorter board over, you can change the height of the shelf to a lower position. This changes the centre of gravity and the item you place on the stand will now be closer to the joining of the two boards. Once you are happy with what height you want your shelf to be, take note of how it is put together, then dismantle it, ready for sanding and finishing.
Step 5: Finishing Your Stand
Final Step -
Your final step, Well done, you are almost done...
Time to grab your sander and your 80 grit sandpaper... Sand the whole of your board including the sides and the top of the boards. Only sand the bottom end of the shorter board. A handy hint to help on the ends is if you align the ends to line up with each other and sand them both together like in the first photo above.
Once having removed any major lumps, bumps or scratches etc with the 80 grit, move onto a 120 grit, then repeat the process. Continue repeating with 180 grit and then 240 grit sand paper.
Once you are happy with the sanding and everything is nice and smooth, wipe the boards down with a soft dry cloth.
Grab your choice of finishing medium, whether it is furniture oil, wax polish, varnish etc, and using the product according to the manufacturers recommendation, finish off your boards.
Once finished you can re-assemble and add your fish bowl, or pot plant etc and place it in a spot that you can show off your new creation.
Congratulations, you just made a Scrap Timber Impossible, Anti-gravity, Cantilever Fish Bowl or Planter Stand.
Please upload your finished projects to show us how you went.
Runner Up in the
Home and Garden Contest
13 days ago
This is a very beautiful and minimalist design. It reminds me of the "Viking Stargazer" chairs one can build. While beautiful, like @Canadaguy1959, I have concerns about its stability. Watering a plant resting on the stand will change the center of gravity, requiring careful adjustment to keep things balanced. Then as the plant dries out the balance will again slowly change!
Reply 3 days ago
If the stand itself is balanced (i.e. its center of gravity is exactly over its base), then the plant pot itself will also be placed exactly over the base and the change in weight due to watering will not affect the balance. If, however, the stand is balanced only after the plant pot is added, things will change.
Reply 2 days ago
The point of the C.O.G is fixed depending on the height of the cantilever arm. Due to the size of most pots being greater than the point of COG, it isn't that critical. You can move the pot left or right a bit off the COG and it still stays up...
I have had no issues with watering my potted plant which now has its home on it (after my adult son knocked the fish bowl off while swinging a rope inside)
Highly recommend giving it a try... 😊
Reply 12 days ago
Great to see you on instructables... I love the viking stargazer chairs... As for the watering situation for your wife, that would not be an issue. I have had 30kg on the small one I made and if the plant is placed at the lower position rather than the higher one, it will be more stable... Once in place, you can water to your hearts content... fluctuations of weight will not matter as long as the initial weight has enough down force form gravity to hold it all in place.
For extra stability, use timber that is both wider and thicker than what I have...
13 days ago on Step 5
Unless you are using a 2x stock with substantial width to it when cut on the bevel, you'd better not have any kind of animal running around the house. And, unless you place it on a solid flat surface instead of a fabric rug or mat which will compress over time, you will wind up with a big mess on the floor. I made a wine rack like this forty years ago, so I've got plenty of experience with the concept. After the cat knocked it over for the tenth time, it went into the trash.
Reply 12 days ago
Sorry to hear about your wine holder...
The design is meant to be placed in a spot that is free from animal or children's reach, for the very reasons you mentioned.
I would suggest for those that have animals or children, that you just make a chunkier one. The thicker and wider the "stand" is the more stable it will be... In it's lowest position it is remarkably stable. I shook the hall table that is in the photo. everything on the table wobbled, but nothing looked close to falling.
Something fun and interesting, that has a place in a stable home... Might not go well in an earthquake though :)
Reply 3 days ago
"Might not go well in an earthquake though": That was my first thought upon seeing this: "Cool project. Guess there are no Earthquakes where the builder lives" :-)
Reply 2 days ago
Lol... Very true alfon1917...
None here in Brisbane metro area, Australia since I was born...
I don't think too much stays standing when a real earthquake hits anyway...
Have a great day and thanks for commenting... 😃
13 days ago
Really cool--well done! I'm wondering if you can explain to me how it's anti-gravity nature works because I have no clue.
Reply 12 days ago
The math for this kind of thing is taught (among other places) in engineering statics courses. But practically, a "rule of thumb" is that if the center of gravity (CG) of the entire assembly (cantilever and load) is over the actual base (the rectangle formed by the board end on the table) then the assembly won't "tip." So if you drew a pencil line around the base touching the table support and imagined the CG as the entire mass of the object concentrated at a point in space, if you were to draw a line vertically down from the CG and it falls inside the penciled rectangle, the object will balance. If you move the load so that the new CG falls "outside" that rectangle, it will tip in that direction. I realize I'm neglecting the subtleties of moments around the "hinge" points formed by the table base-edges and such but this simplification is sufficiently accurate and simple to visualize.
Reply 11 days ago
Thank you thank you! I understand now! Physics is very cool.
Reply 11 days ago
It sure is...
Reply 11 days ago
You are most welcome ;-)
Reply 11 days ago
Thanks for adding a more detailed explanation for the readers...
Excellent, I really appreciate it... 😃👍
Reply 12 days ago
The concept works on the centre of gravity and cantilever principles. The higher up the anchoring beam the platform, the further out the centre of gravity is. That is why when in the higher position, the bowl or plant is further out "on the limb"...
It is more stable the lower the limb which makes it a viable addition to a stable surface. the weight that is applied "Holds" the whole structure in position. I tested this piece out with over 30kg of weight and it held up.
A simplified answer, but I hope that helps.
Thanks for your comment and question...
12 days ago
Just dont own cats.
looks cool though.
Reply 12 days ago
Hahaha... The last cat I owned knocked over everything that wasn't glued or screwed...
Thanks for the encouragement 😁
12 days ago
Cool project ,definitely on my todo list, but no fish bowl something unbreakable, just in case.
Reply 12 days ago
Thanks mojjaba, I'd love to see a pic of your finished product!
19 days ago
Nice job! Thanks for sharing :)